September 20, 2018
Cross country is back, and the 2018 season promises to be a historic one.
In the team competition, a pair of teams are chasing dynasty status: the Northern Arizona men will be trying to become the first team to win three straight titles since Arkansas from 1998-2000, while the New Mexico women will be gunning for their third title in four years.
Individually, the big story on the men’s side is whether the American drought can end: no U.S. man has won the NCAA individual title since Oregon’s Galen Rupp did it 10 years ago. Northern Arizona’s Tyler Day and Stanford’s Grant Fisher — both top-five finishers a year ago — will look to end that streak. Wisconsin’s Morgan McDonald will be looking to end a drought of his own: no man has won the NCAA title on his home course since Indiana’s Bob Kennedy in 1992, but the Aussie will have a chance this fall as the NCAA championships will be staged at the Zimmer Course for the first time.
That course is another reason to be excited for the season. From 2004-2017, only two cities (Terre Haute and Louisville) hosted NCAAs. But over the next four years, four cities will host, beginning with Madison on November 17 (Terre Haute, Stillwater, Okla., and Tallahassee will follow in 2019, 2020, and 2021). Start planning those itineraries.
For the fifth year in a row, we’re counting down the top 10 men’s and women’s teams in America. These aren’t meant as definitive predictions — there are too many variables to accurately forecast the results of a race two months from now — but consider this a starting point for the national title conversation.
September 7: Meets begin to count for NCAA at-large qualifying purposes
September 28: Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational, Madison, Wisconsin
October 13: Pre-National Invitational, Madison, Wisconsin
October 26-28: Conference weekend (various sites)
November 9: NCAA regional meets (various sites)
November 17: NCAA championships, Madison, Wisconsin
Note: We determined where a runner ranked among returners by taking his place in the team scoring at NCAAs in 2017 and subtracting the number of seniors/non-returners in front of him.
New additions in italics
4. Boise State: A first-ever podium finish is within sight
2017 results: 6th NCAAs, 4th West Regional, 2nd Mountain West, 4th Wisconsin Invitational
Key returners (lose #4, #6, #7 from NCAAs last year)
|Name||Class||# returner from NCAAs||Credentials|
|Allie Ostrander||JR||2||4:15/8:54.15:21/9:38 steeple; 2x NCAA steeple champ|
|Emily Venters||SO||25||15:49/34:16; 9th World U20 5k|
|Clare O’Brien||JR||41||9:09/15:42/32:39; 12th NCAA 10k|
Prior to the 2014 season, the Boise State women had never qualified for the NCAA cross country championships. Since then, the Broncos have finished 11th, 11th, and 6th (they failed to qualify in 2016) and the 2018 team looks, on paper, to be the school’s strongest yet.
Allie Ostrander, who finished second at NCAAs as a true freshman and fourth last year, is the clear #1, a two-time NCAA champ in the steeple and lock for the top 10 if she can stay healthy. Emily Venters was very good as a freshman last year, finishing 53rd at NCAAs before embarking upon a breakout track campaign that saw her run 15:49 and finish 9th at the World U20 champs in the 5k. Clare O’Brien (77th at NCAA XC) ran PRs of 15:42 (indoors) and 32:39 (outdoors), finishing 12th at NCAAs in the 10,000; she could challenge for top-20 honors in Madison. When your #4 runner, Gracie Tostenson, has broken 16:00 for 5k, you’re in a very good spot.
Brenna Peloquin, a two-time top-10 finisher at NCAA XC, could have potentially taken this team from podium contender to national title threat. But Peloquin is no longer listed on Boise State’s roster. Even without her, however, this team is strong enough to improve on last year’s 6th-place finish.
MB: Brenna Peloquin?
Boise State coach Corey Ihmels did not respond to LetsRun.com’s interview request.
3. Colorado: Buffs look to extend podium streak to four
2017 results: 3rd NCAAs, 1st Mountain Regional, 1st Pac-12, 2nd Pre-Nats
Key returners (lose #3, #6 from NCAAs last year)
|Name||Class||# returner from NCAAs||Credentials|
|Dani Jones||SR||5||4:07/9:02/16:12; 5th in USA 1500|
|Sage Hurta||JR||18||4:13/16:31/9:57 steeple|
|Makena Morley||SR||24||15:40/32:28; 11th NCAA 10k|
|Madison Boreman||SO||32||4:19/9:46 steeple; 2nd ’17 NCAA steeple|
|Brianna Schwartz||JR||156||4:42 mile|
|Tayler Tuttle||SR||N/A||4:47 mile/16:20|
|Tabor Scholl||JR||N/A||42nd at ’16 NCAA XC|
|Val Constien||SR||N/A||9:47 steeple; 5th NCAA steeple|
|Annie Hill||FR||N/A||4:41 mile/10:14 3200|
Head coach Mark Wetmore was pleased with how his women ran in 2017, as the Buffs won the Pac-12 and finished on the NCAA podium for the third consecutive year. The talent pipeline never seems to dry up in Boulder, and with four returners from the top 62 at last year’s NCAA meet, this squad should challenge for the podium again in 2018.
Dani Jones, the 2017 NCAA 3k champ, is the star. A threat for the individual title — a Colorado woman hasn’t won it all since Kara Goucher in 2000 — Jones has a killer kick and is coming off her best track season yet, running a PR of 4:07 for 1500 and placing 5th in that event at USAs. Sage Hurta (35th) was an All-American last year, Makena Morley (15:40) has the fastest 5k pb on the team, and Madison Boreman, the 2017 NCAA steeple runner-up, is back and healthy after missing the spring track season.
“It’s a little like the men’s team in that it has probably four, three or four, very good runners and then we’re waiting to see who emerges out of a pack of contenders,” Wetmore says. “Although that pack is a little bigger for the women than for the men.”
Tabor Scholl is one name that stands out for the battle for the #5 spot; though she battled injuries last year, she was 38th at Pre-Nats and 20th at Pac-12s in 2017 and 42nd at NCAAs in 2016. Val Constien made a huge leap on the track last spring, going from 10:08 in the steeple to 9:47 and 5th at NCAAs and should also be in the mix. The Buffs also brought in Annie Hill, a regional champ at both NXN and Foot Lockers who clocked a 4:41 mile as a high schooler, and though Wetmore says that he doesn’t think any of the freshmen on his roster will be ready to make a big impact at NCAAs by November, Hill should be a nice building block for future years.
With Jones at the front, the Buffaloes will be formidable once again in 2018 and have a great shot to notch their fourth straight podium appearance.